Creating new jobs in Polk

Published 8:00 am Friday, March 9, 2018

County to apply for grant for new company

COLUMBUS — High paying jobs could soon be coming to Polk County.

The county is applying for a $250,000 grant for a new company coming to Columbus, which promises 43 high-paying jobs over the next five years.

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The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, and approved a grant application following a public hearing.

The county is applying for a North Carolina Department of Commerce, Rural Division Building Reuse Program grant of up to $250,000 for what the county is calling “Project Wolverine.” The name of the company has not yet been released.

The county will be required to contribute a 5 percent match to the grant, or $12,500. Duke Energy has agreed to contribute 40 percent of the county’s match, so Polk will have to contribute $7,500, if the grant is awarded.

Polk County Business Development Director Brian Griffin overviewed the company and what it will bring to the county. The company is proposing to purchase a building in the industrial park, off Highway 108 just outside Columbus, which was a smaller building of Timken. The building has been vacant for more than two years, and is 50,000 square feet on 8 acres, located at 135 Ada Moore St., Columbus.

The company is headquartered in Michigan, with two locations and is expanding to the Southeast region. The company is a full service automation supplier, including complete design, simulation, build, debug and installation.

Griffin said customers of the company include BMW, Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motors, with the company being in business since 2000.

The company plans to create 30 new jobs in the first two years and 43 total jobs over five years, Griffin said.

The average wage for the jobs is $54,000 a year, ranging from $37,000 for administrative jobs to $75,000 for machinists.

Griffin said the average annual wage of $54,000 is 55 percent higher than the current county average of $29,500 per year.

Griffin said the grant and company moving here will put an idle building back into use, as well as increase the tax base for the county. The total county contribution per job equates to $250, he said, and has the potential to attract talent that is currently leaving the county for employment elsewhere.

The company is also planning to partner with Isothermal Community College for its Work Force Development program to provide training to recruit new employees, and attract local talent who may be leaving the county to go elsewhere for employment, Griffin said.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked if the company has started moving into the building yet.

Griffin said they have access to the building, but they do not plan to purchase the building until April.

“They want the grant approved before they buy the building,” Griffin said.

During the public hearing, Polk County Economic and Tourism Development Commission Chair Ambrose Mills said the company is the kind of business the county wants, with it being a clean, non-smoke stack business.

“It fits our concept of the kind of business we want here,” Mills said. “They are very professional, very experienced and they are well established.”

Gasperson also mentioned that the county has funding to meet the match for the grant, with selling of surplus land and another $50,000 in economic development funding from the sale of the old St. Luke’s Hospital building.

“This is a remarkably large grant for a small amount from the county for a significant return,” Gasperson said. “If we are involved in having to do matches [for grants], this is as good as you’re going to see.”

Resolution supporting an application to the department of commerce building reuse program

WHEREAS, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Rural Division, Building Reuse Program assists communities in maximizing the economic potential of existing structures; and

WHEREAS, grants are available for the restoration and uplifting of vacant buildings, and the expansion and renovation of buildings currently occupied by manufacturing type businesses; and

WHEREAS, Project Wolverine has pledged to create 30 jobs in Polk County over the next 2 years, with an anticipated overall job creation of 43 jobs over 5 years, and is eligible to apply for a building reuse grant in the amount up to $250,000 through the North Carolina Department of Commerce, and requires the sponsorship of Polk County to make the application; and

WHEREAS, Polk County acknowledges that, if the grant is awarded, it will be required to commit to a cash match of 5 percent of the grant amount toward the project, up to $12,500; and

WHEREAS, the Polk County Board of Commissioners agree that if the grant is awarded, the county will provide proper and timely submittal of all documentation requested by the grantor agency; and

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the board of commissioners of Polk County do hereby support and endorse the application of Project Wolverine to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Rural Division, Building Reuse Program for a grant in the amount of up to $250,000.